Sermons from St Faith's
Living on the Edge
Brenda Cottarel, Sunday,
November 19th, 2015
Three years ago we went to Seattle, my first time in
the USA and my first experience of a Baseball match,
I remember one of the advertising slogans for the
game “We can sell you a whole seat for the
game but you’ll only need the edge” for me that
conjured up excitement, enthusiasm and expectation.
Is that what we think sitting on the edge of our
seat means? The adrenaline rush, pulse and heart
beating against the inside the inside of your chest?
Most of us don’t live on the edge. We occasionally
sit on the edge but as time goes by we inevitably
grow comfortable and secure in our lives. Indeed if
we don’t have that sense of security and
comfort we do what we can to get it. In truth we
can’t live with constant adrenaline rushes and
heightened heart rates. We would wear out. The body
could not take it. Living on the edge can be
dangerous and that’s why we seek it in small doses,
if at all.
The Gospel reading today from St Mark is guaranteed
to raise the pulse rate a bit. Jesus begins
to tell the disciples about the signs of the end of
the world. This entire chapter has been called Marks
mini-apocalypse. It is reminiscent of the book of
Revelation which is a classic example of Christian
apocalyptic writing. Apocalyptic literature was a
special kind of writing at that time. It dealt with
clever and meaningful ways of looking at the
end of the world using imagery, powerful wild
imagery, that painted fantastic word pictures.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus responds to a
comment from the disciples about how magnificent
the temple is and big the stones are. Jesus looks
past the building to a time when it would be
destroyed. Indeed the temple was destroyed within a
generation of Jesus speaking these words. All of
this chapter focuses on symbols and words that show
end of the world will happen, wars, kingdom against
kingdom, famine, earthquakes.
Jesus does not tell the disciples this to pinpoint a
date. He doesn’t give them a head start so
they can get their affairs in order and it wasn’t to
let them gloat if it happened in their lifetime so
they could say “we told you so”
Actually with the exception of the destruction of
the Temple, none of the disciples saw the things
Jesus predicted would usher in the end of the world.
We are still waiting 2000 years later.
The point Jesus was making was to be watchful…..be
prepared…… persevere in the midst of struggles to
come. Soon there would be times when Christians
believed that the end was near. Within a decade
or two nearly all of the twelve apostles were
dead... mostly as martyrs. Within a generation
persecution would seek to destroy the Christian
church, even as the Temple was destroyed.
The end of the world didn’t come but threats to
destroy the Christian church and bring about the
end of faith were on the horizon. The key was to be
alert….be prepared and persevere. Believers had to
dig deep to continue to be enthusiastic and
energetic about a faith that could, and did for
some, cost them their lives. Things were not easy
for the early Christians, their own end could come
at any time. Soon, they were living on the edge.
Danger gave an edginess to their lives. Their faith
have to persevere in times when it would be easier
to give up and give in to the pressures that opposed
the Christian God.
After the resurrection when the church was up and
running many of the Christians believed that
Christ would return before they died, they lived in
expectation with energy and enthusiasm… they lived
on the edge, because they believed they would see
the second coming, I doubt their adrenaline and
heart rate stayed locked in high octane mode but
they lived on the edge, they lived with an attitude
that remained focused on the Lord day in and day
Can you remember the last months of 1999? Some
people thought that the New Year, the turn of the
century would bring about the end of the world the
year 2000 was anticipated with a cautious mix of
excitement and foreboding. As the clock struck 12
and we moved from 1999 to 2000 nothing special
happened, even the computers took things in
their stride. I was working that night and we been
told to prepare with candles, torches and buckets
filled with fresh water and a long list of phone numbers
…just in case. Nothing happened.
I remember reading that church attendance had risen
in the last few months of 1999, (I haven’t
checked St Faith' numbers yet but I will.) Because
people wanted to make sure their affairs were in
order with God...just in case. There was a buzz an
energy an edge to the last few day of1999. Nothing
happened - things soon returned to normal.
I bet it’s been 15 years since most of us have
thought about the end of the world but I wonder if
living on the edge might not be an important
question for us as Christians? I’m not talking about
panicked living as we try to categorize how world
affairs are pointing to the end of the world,
I’m talking about the edginess of stress and
busyness of life that takes up so much of our
The edge I’m talking about is what the first
Christians had. The edge that came from listening to
Jesus and being prepared to watch be alert and
persevere in faith.
We seek comfort and security but such things can be
very hard on faith. We can actually find our faith
too comfortable too secure. Faith needs to have an
edginess to it. It has to be energized. It has to
express itself with enthusiasm.
A comfortable faith in a comfortable church leading
to a comfortable life trying to make sure that our
part of the world stays comfortable was not what
Jesus had in mind for 1st century or 21st century
I suspect that the world will not end for a long
time but who can say? Or who can know that tomorrow
is not promised to them. The end of my world or
yours may be just around the corner.
Without being maudlin about the truth can we not use
it to do some stocktaking of our lives and our
faith? Can we not seek to put our affairs in order?
our attitudes to our faith and each other. Can we
not accept the challenge from Jesus to live our
lives and faith with alertness, perseverance and
If we knew our lives were coming to an end soon we
would have an edginess to living. As sad as it would
be, we would have the gift of putting our affairs in
order with God and with our families and friends. Living
out our faith on the edge can make an incredible
difference to the way we serve God and each other
and the way we live our lives.
I want to finish with this anonymous poem I found.
When the last hungry person is fed
And the homeless are put to bed
When the crying child is stilled
And the cupboards of the poor are filled
When the Gospel of God has been preached
To the last, the lost, the least
When sad broken hearts have been mended
And sin and crime are all ended
When Christ rules the hearts of all men
And the earth is a little like heaven
Then why, then can we sit idly by
Wait in peace for our home in the sky
But while sin, death and want are around us
And evil forces surround us
God give us the grace to attack it
And keep everlastingly at it.
Lots left to do!
Living life on the edge reminds how to do it